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UK homes are being invaded by hungry rats that have run out of food due to the coronavirus lockdown, experts have warned.
Rodents are sneaking into homes in search of meals after restaurants closed, exterminators said.
They added early hoarding of supermarket items may have also attracted rats to people’s properties.
Natalie Bungay, technical officer for the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), said: "With less footfall across cities and towns there is less associated food waste being left in bins and on the floor.
"As a result, rat populations are likely to move further afield to satisfy their need for a food source and this, in turn, is likely to cause more sightings.
"By nature, rats will also try to avoid humans directly and so, with less of us walking the streets, they may be getting a little bolder and possibly be seen in areas they normally wouldn’t.”
BPCA said around half of the professionals it had polled during lockdown had seen an increase in rodent activity.
Bungay added: "In terms of rats in domestic homes, so long as you manage your food waste properly and there are no considerable harbourage opportunities, you shouldn’t experience any unusual problems.”
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Peter Higgs, managing director of PGH Pest Control & Prevention, based in Cranleigh, Surrey, has also experienced an uptake in reports.
He said his firm has seen a 50% increase in residential call-outs since social distancing measures were introduced.
He added: "All of the waste that was produced by people eating food out, and from establishments doing the cooking - that's gone.
"I think some bin collections aren't quite as frequent at the moment too. They are getting into rubbish.”
Higgs said rats would start eating each other when they got really hungry, with the big rats eating the smaller ones first.
When the lockdown was first announced some people took to stockpiling food, fearing supermarkets would run out.
But a leading body recently warned of the dangers of doing so - fearing it could further encourage rats into residential properties.
The National Pest Technicians Association technical manager John Hope said: "Stockpiling will have an effect on public health because if you’re stockpiling goods, there’s more food there to attract rodents."